Formula One returns to Barcelona this weekend and we can't wait to be back in Spain! Here are just a few of the reasons why...
1. Let the European Season Commence!
The Spanish GP signals the start of the European phase of F1 season - moving from long-haul flights to (predominantly) shorter hops across the channel and beyond.
This period of the calendar takes us to tracks steeped in history and nostalgia, while also providing the first major opportunity for upgrades to be introduced and a very different look in the paddock, as the massive motorhomes appear once again.
For some of the drivers, the European season includes their home races and there are always packed crowds in the grandstands. The team trucks return to action, transporting all the equipment and cars from country to country. It also means more convenient working hours for those who support the team from back at base.
It all kicks off in Barcelona this weekend and we can't wait for the European season to get started!
2. Return of the Motorhomes
Being back in Europe means the return of team motorhomes, which tower over the F1 paddock. They bring familiar comfort and welcome space for teams, alongside being a plush and pristine meeting, dining and event setting for media, partners and guests.
F1 motorhomes have evolved immensely over the past decade or so, with teams now bringing multi-story buildings to each European event. Our very own motorhome is a swanky three-story structure which is assembled and dismantled each time.
The trucks typically arrive at the track on the Saturday before a race weekend. The unpacking and building begins, taking until Tuesday for the motorhome to be complete - Wednesday is reserved for finishing touches. Then, when the chequered flag has fallen, it takes two days to disassemble the motorhome, pack it away and send it onto its next destination.
The ground floor is the main catering and seating area, while the second floor is reserved for VIPs and partners - and also includes team offices. The top floor terrace is another stylish entertaining area but also features a brilliant view of the paddock itself.
It's always nice to be back in the motorhome and we're looking forward to getting settled back into our home away from home.
3. Upgrades, Upgrades Everywhere
Because of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya's varied and challenging nature, it's seen as the perfect place to test new parts, put them through their paces and see them make a difference out on track.
Logically, therefore, this is where teams start to introduce their first big upgrades of the season. Of course, it also helps that the Barcelona circuit is much closer to team factories, making the transportation of updates much easier.
A major focus for Barcelona is typically on aerodynamic developments, due to the track's mix of corner types. A variety of different characteristics are all thrown together, making it a great reference circuit when it comes to aero.
It'll be interesting to see what new components are brought by teams to Barcelona and how this impacts the competitive order.
4. A Familiar Battleground
F1 spends so much time at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya it's almost like a second home! The teams have already completed eight days of track running in Spain this year, with the W09 alone racking up 1,040 laps (4,841 km) during pre-season testing.
The engineers therefore already have a good baseline understanding of the car at this circuit, with plenty of data on file to help prepare for the Spanish Grand Prix - especially useful this year, considering the track was resurfaced over the winter.
However, conditions will be much warmer relative to winter testing and the cars we'll see this weekend aren't the same spec as the ones which broke cover here three months ago, so it'll be fascinating to get that direct comparison of how far each team has come at a track widely regarded as the best overall test of performance on the calendar...
5. Back to Testing
As if we weren't familiar enough with this particular venue, F1's return to Spain isn't just about a race weekend. There's also a testing opportunity the following week - the first in-season test of 2018 and two crucial days to gather data for the year ahead.
Barcelona's mix of characteristics properly puts the cars through their paces, which is why it is so popular as a test track. It's a good reference for car balance and how the tyres behave, with these learnings translating to other tracks.
The cars will be back in action on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the Spanish GP, with our drivers racking up even more laps of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. It's safe to say we'll know the track quite well by the conclusion of next week!